I’ve always liked pumpkin. I like the way it tastes. I like the way it looks. Mostly, I like the season it comes in, fall.
The world just looks better this time of year, you know? The colors, the weather, the way you can see your breath in the morning but take your sweater off in the afternoon. This October, I’ve seen leaves fall in Seattle and Ohio and then back again in Illinois; I’ve sipped hot apple cider and walked on piles of crunchy leaves; I’ve felt crisp air and slept with the windows open. It’s been beautiful. And even though the days are darker as we edge closer to winter, I have to tell you: I love fall.
All that autumnal affection has to get channeled somewhere, and I’m happy to tell you I’ve found the place: pumpkin. Because listen, pumpkin is to recipes what fall is to the calendar. When I make something with pumpkin, it’s like I’m eating pure fall, and I like that. That’s why when the people behind The Old Farmer’s Almanac Everyday Recipes sent me a copy of their cookbook recently, complete with little sticky tabs signaling the best recipes with pumpkin, I was an easy sell.
Beginning with pumpkin cheesecake bars.
Velvety and creamy, these bars start with a thick graham cracker crust and finish with a pumpkin filling as rich as cheesecake. You’re supposed to let them chill before slicing, but between us, I had a piece right out of the oven, warm and golden, and it was quite nice. The next day, I ate another piece, chilled, for breakfast—because it’s October after all, and I might as well eat the most of it.
And if you too find yourself indoors one of these beautiful evenings, away from the colors and the leaves and the chill in the air, I sincerely hope it’s because you’re making this or something like it, with pumpkin, in the season I wish wouldn’t end.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Just slightly adapted from The Old Farmer’s Almanac Everyday Recipes
Makes nine bars (although it depends on how you cut them)
1 package (1/3 pound) graham crackers
1/3 cup Sucanat (or packed brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup Sucanat (or packed brown sugar)
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon white spelt (or regular) flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1.5 cups fresh pureed pumpkin (or 3/4 cup from a can)
1/3 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch square pan.
For crust: Break the crackers into a food processor. Add the Sucanat and cinnamon, and process into a fine meal. Add the melted butter and process again. Press the crust into the bottom of the buttered pan and slightly up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Reduce oven temp to 325 degrees (although, full disclosure, I completely forgot to do this).
For filling: In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, Sucanat, egg, and egg yolk with an electric mixer. Add vanilla and stir. Add remaining ingredients and stir until smooth. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Refrigerate for at least four hours before slicing.
*I thought this was super confusing. My box of organic graham crackers was 14.4 ounces, so a little under a pound, and it had three wrapped packages of crackers inside. I used one of those packages, plus a couple crackers from another.